Arrieta's nine K's pave way for Cubs in opener

Righty gives up just two hits in seven; Starlin knocks two-run homer

Arrieta's nine K's pave way for Cubs in opener

PHILADELPHIA -- The Cubs entered their series with the Phillies on the heels of dropping three of four in Pittsburgh. Adding injury to insult, they placed Emilio Bonifacio on the DL with rib cage inflammation early on Friday. To right the ship, the Cubs put the ball in the hands of Jake Arrieta.

The right-hander didn't disappoint.

Starlin Castro generated the only offense -- a two-run homer in the fourth -- for the Cubs Friday night, but it was all they would need, as Arrieta twirled his best outing of the season in Chicago's 2-1 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

After Roberto Hernandez walked Anthony Rizzo on four pitches to begin the fourth inning, Castro came to the plate. The shortstop took two pitches before launching an up-and-in fastball just beyond the fence in left-center to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

Castro isn't a quintessential cleanup hitter by any means, but he continues to produce from the No. 4 spot in Chicago's lineup. He's on pace to shatter his career-high 14 home runs set in 2012, but Castro hasn't changed his approach since accepting his new role.

"I don't really think about homers," said Castro, who has nine this season. "Just try to hit the ball hard."

The two runs were more than enough support for Arrieta, who had all of his pitches working. The right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out a career-high-tying nine batters. Arrieta, who was coming off six scoreless innings against Miami in his last start, lowered his season ERA to 2.09.

"Looked like his ball had a lot of life," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He was obviously commanding the zone. Made some pitches when he needed to. Got us through seven innings and did a really good job."

"I had a good mix tonight," Arrieta said. "Good velocity, good movement, good location. You know, with those three things, you're going to have success."

In his last six starts dating back to May 13, Arrieta has allowed just seven earned runs in 33 2/3 innings for a 1.87 ERA. Over that span, he is 2-1 and owns a 36/11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

"For me, once the ball gets rolling, things tend to come a little bit easier," Arrieta said. "It's never easy to win and have success at a high level. But you do things the right way and learn day-in and day-out and try and get better with at least one thing every time you come to the yard, you give yourself a good opportunity to perform at a high level."

Castro was in the middle of the action again in the sixth. After Hernandez got the first two outs of the inning, he threw up-and-in to Castro again, but this time, the pitch tailed too far inside and hit Castro in the forearm. Home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger promptly ejected Hernandez, and after Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg came out to talk to Ripperger, he was ejected as well.

"I was surprised because I don't even know why the umpire threw him out for that, because it was the same pitch as the homer," Castro said. "[Hernandez] is a good friend of mine. I know him a lot. I see him every day in the Dominican. I don't think he did it on purpose."

Hernandez went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out five. He was at 81 pitches when he was ejected.

Neil Ramirez made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Jimmy Rollins led off the inning by tying Mike Schmidt's club record with his 2,234th hit, a double to the right-field corner. With two outs, Ramirez walked Marlon Byrd, and Domonic Brown drove Rollins in with a single, but Ramirez froze Carlos Ruiz with a curveball for the final out.

"That's a moment for growth there for a young guy like Neil," Arrieta said. "Tremendous job of nailing it down there at the end, even though they were able to scratch a run."

"That breaking ball that he finished Ruiz with was really, really good," Renteria said.

Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.